The unsung heroes of the pandemic? Sports stadiums

By Arthur L. Caplan and Richard Florida and Elizabeth Haas and Lee H. Igel 4 minute Learn

For many individuals, the COVID-19 pandemic began when the NBA out of the blue shut down its season after Utah Jazz participant Rudy Gobert was identified with the new coronavirus. The reminiscence of cancelled sports activities occasions and pictures of athletes competing in empty stadiums— proper as much as this summer time’s Tokyo Olympics—are seared into our collective reminiscence.

However in the United States and throughout the world, sports activities stadiums have performed an unsung function in combatting the pandemic. Effectively-located, accessible by way of public transportation and highways, and set as much as deal with massive crowds, stadiums have been used for all the pieces from COVID-19 testing and vaccine deployment to non-public protecting gear and meals distribution to blood drives, overflow capability for hospital beds, and lodging for the relaxation and restoration of important staff.

Drive by means of vaccinations at Oakland Colesium, Alameda. [Photo: Takako Hatayama-Phillips/iStock]

By our accounting, some 26 NFL stadiums, 30 MLB ballparks, and scores of NBA, WNBA, and NHL arenas and MLS and NWSL soccer fields have been used as vaccination websites. Arlington, Texas, was one of the first cities to make use of its stadiums as vaccination websites and demonstrated the worth stadiums can add throughout a disaster. The group preordered freezers for the stadium whereas vaccines had been nonetheless in growth. Native officers then coordinated with Rangers and Cowboys executives to make use of the baseball stadium for the first 4 weeks after which make a seamless transfer over to the soccer stadium for the subsequent eight weeks of vaccinations.


Stadiums have vaccinated quite a bit of individuals. Greater than 600,000 individuals had been vaccinated at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, accounting for multiple in 10 vaccinations in the complete state of Massachusetts. One other 700,000 individuals—greater than 1 / 4 of the inhabitants in a county exterior of Glendale, Arizona—acquired their jabs at State Farm Stadium. And greater than half of these from a surrounding group exterior of Atlanta had been vaccinated at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Stadiums performed a major function in getting the vaccines into less-advantaged minority communities. Knowledge from the CDC exhibits that Black and Hispanic People are much less more likely to be vaccinated than white People. But, minority populations had been vaccinated at stadiums at charges a lot nearer to nationwide averages, in accordance with analysis performed at the side of the US Convention of Mayors that has not but been made public.

And stadiums throughout the nation have made particular efforts to achieve out to their communities. Coors Area in Denver held a one-million-dollar lottery for 4 consecutive weeks to spur vaccinations. At Yankee Stadium in New York, 325,000-plus individuals who acquired vaccines acquired to satisfy some of their favourite sports activities figures.

A vaccination web site at Yankee Stadium, New York. [Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images]

Sports stadiums not solely accommodate massive numbers of followers, they’re arrange to make sure tens of 1000’s of individuals can come by means of safely and with a excessive diploma of coordination. The Baltimore Parks and Recreation Division, which is accountable for distributing meals, PPE, and different important objects all through the metropolis, discovered M&T Financial institution Stadium—the downtown house of the Baltimore Ravens—to be the most secure place to get the job completed.

Stadiums exterior the United States have additionally been enlisted to assist fight the pandemic. Premier League stadiums in the United Kingdom have been opened on a number of events as a vaccination middle for native communities. One amongst them, Chelsea Soccer Membership, has been offering lodge and meals lodging at its Stamford Bridge house in London for native hospital staffs of Britain’s Nationwide Well being Service since the begin of the pandemic.

A course signal for the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Centre in Wembley. [Photo: VV Photo/iStock]

Stadiums are amongst the largest investments that cities make of their communities. And there was ongoing criticism over the use of public funds to subsidize their growth, not solely as a result of of the thousands and thousands of {dollars} concerned however as a result of the groups enjoying in them are sometimes value billions of {dollars} and their house owners value much more. Utilizing stadiums to fight the pandemic supplies a kind of public worth and infrequently delivers a time-sensitive return on the funding.

Stadiums and the sports activities’ groups that play in them forge a powerful emotional bond with the group. By way of attendance at sporting occasions and the reminiscences created, residents and guests come to see a stadium as greater than a chunk of bodily infrastructure. They see stadiums as half of their group’s identification and a spot to mobilize individuals in instances of disaster.


Getting a vaccine jab at the native hospital that’s 10 minutes away from your private home will be comforting and handy. It may, nonetheless, additionally clog-up house wanted for treating sufferers. Getting a vaccinated at the native stadium will be equally comforting and handy—and maybe extra embracing of the wider group.

With the Delta variant spurring a fourth wave of the pandemic, with so many remaining unvaccinated, and the Biden administration saying many of us could properly want a 3rd dose, the function of stadiums as unsung heroes in combatting COVID-19 isn’t over but.

Elizabeth Haas is Adjunct Professor at the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Institute for International Sport and the Jonathan M. Tisch Heart of Hospitality. Arthur L. Caplan is the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU College of Medication. Lee H. Igel is a scientific professor in the NYU Tisch Institute for International Sport. Richard Florida is College Professor at the College of Toronto’s College of Cities and Rotman College of Administration.